Sleep-deprived but Happy

I don’t know what day it is again. I escaped the polar vortex wind-chills in Indiana by flying across the country to Seattle, today sunny and seventy. It’s not supposed to be this beautiful until summer, but there it is. A week of heaven on earth.

Coming from flat corn fields, the snow-covered mountains always take my breath, and then I gawk again at Mt. Ranier, the highest in the Cascades. I’ve been flying out here for eighteen years, and it still stuns, an immense lone spectacle. The air is different in the Pacific Northwest – the latitude, rainforest, saltwater, and mountains – and I feel sure that this invigorating healthy atmosphere is adding years to my life.

Hiking up Little Si; Seattle Aquarium with the Puget Sound flowing in and out of the outer tanks; famous Pike Place or orca whale watching – all things tourist must take a back seat this trip. I have babies to see to.

Newborn twin boys have kept me busy this week. I walk the 23 steps between kitchen, dining, and Baby-Central living room where my 4 a.m. shift begins. Back and forth, heating bottles filled with vitamin-rich formula added to mama’s milk, changing diapers, fixing breakfast for three-and-a half-year-old Big Brother who sweetly asks, “Would you please put the baby down and help me now?”

I scoot Marbles off the couch, the heaviest ball of fur I’ve ever seen; and intelligent, trustworthy golden retriever Ranger nearly wags his tail off as he slips in a forbidden lick to the milk running down baby’s cheek. There’s all kind of happy here.

Mom is sleep-deprived and still smiling, and dad, who has taken several all-night shifts this week, sleepwalks through his day while running his own business. Even fifteen-year-old Steady Son offers to babysit while the parents run to the grocery.

Born two months early at three-and-a-half pounds, the twins are now eight pounds of sacred wonder. Peaceful Merrick smiles at me so hard his eyes crinkle. He is Darling Angel. Wyatt, the older by two minutes, grunts, groans, and carries on so long and loud that I laugh. He will be Strong Protector. These perfect little boys, alive for ten weeks now, have enlarged our hearts by magnitudes.

A newborn’s rhythm takes a mom down to the core of what’s important: meeting the basic needs of the defenseless, providing safety and shelter, all with a love so deep it aches. Parents live on a simple plane for long months, and then suddenly infancy is over. Baby, like Big Brother, wants to take matters into his own hands.

The second week I drive up the road twelve miles to watch three-year-old grandson daredevil on his little scooter, and help Mother Abby sort through tubs of baby clothes while we await another precious this summer. If I ever move, it will be to Edmonds, Washington. The historic downtown, a few blocks from the ferry, is often filled with tourists and unfamiliar languages, but still feels homey and quiet. Volunteers spruce up garden spaces along the sidewalks, store owners put out water dishes for the walked dogs, and flower baskets hang on every corner and then some. I’ve never seen a prettier town. Out my bedroom window the Olympic Mountains beckon across Puget Sound and soothing train whistles fill this magical air night and day. Three weeks here isn’t long enough.

I’m a happy grandma in Pacific Northwest Paradise, but Sam just called from Indiana and said it snowed again.

Hoosier Hospitality

I don’t know what day it is. It’s been nine months since I retired, and a rhythm has developed to my weeks. Sunday morning still has me in church for an hour of fellowship; Tuesday noon I attend an Al-Anon meeting learning to detach and yet still care; and Friday noon my writers’ group meets to discuss one of our current stories. But this pesky polar vortex has descended on us again with below-zero wind chills, and I haven’t been anywhere this week. All my days have run together. The geese didn’t return on the first day of March (see Frank and Opal), and no wonder. The pond is frozen over again and it’s too cold to be outside for anyone except fur-hooded folks who like igloos.

In-between arctic plunges, I chatted with Billy, who had repaired my ninety-year-old mom’s car. I was hoping he couldn’t fix the u-joint, whatever that is, but he did (see Jerky and Pears). He used to run his own repair garage, but like many of us, has slowed down. Now he works on an occasional car in his driveway. Too bad many of my readers will never get the benefit of his expertise. By the way, my mom says she wants to drive again if spring ever comes, but that’s another story.

Billy told me about what had recently happened to him. Apparently K.S. isn’t the only one who loses $50 bills (see The Red Truck). He had stopped in at the local bar for a late afternoon pick-me-up, and then headed to the grocery store. When he reached into his pocket to pay for cigarettes and coffee, his fist came up empty.

“I knew which pocket my fifty-dollar bill was in, but it warn’t there,” he told me.

He left his items with the cashier and re-traced his steps to the tavern. “I asked the bartender if anyone had turned in a $50 bill, knowing the chance was slim to none.”

A stranger at one of the tables overheard his question and piped up, “Which table were you sitting at?”

Billy turned around to speak to him and pointed at the table.

“Which chair were you sitting in?” the man asked.

Billy walked over and pointed again.

“Which side of the chair did your fifty-dollar bill fall on?”

Billy said, “The left side. Had it in my left pants’ pocket.”

The stranger reached in his shirt pocket, pulled out a $50 bill and said, “This must be yours, then.”

That’s life in small-town America, filled with kind strangers and honest car mechanics. Hoosier hospitality is real, and still deals out fairness and generosity, both of which are in short supply in our country’s leadership. But that’s altogether another story.